Self-Forgiveness Increases Self-Esteem in LGBTQ Individuals

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) population are more vulnerable to psychological issues than heterosexual individuals simply because of the stigma and perceptions surrounding their sexual preferences. Research has shown time and again that LGBTQ individuals experience less stress, depression, and anxiety when they come out to family members and friends, and more importantly, when they are emotionally supported by peers.

However, self-esteem still plays a huge role in well-being regardless of whether an individual has the support of others or not. Self-esteem can determine mood, is based on how one views oneself, and is directly related to self-forgiveness and shame. But until now, few studies have looked specifically at how shame and self-forgiveness relate to self-esteem in a sample of LGBTQ individuals.

To address this gap in literature, Darrell C. Greene, a psychologist in private practice in New York, recently collaborated with a researcher from John Carroll University in a study involving 657 LTGBT individuals. Greene looked at forgiveness, shame proneness, and self-esteem and found that the participants who had the least amount of shame and highest amount of forgiveness had the highest levels of self-esteem.

Specifically, self-forgiveness was directly predictive of self-esteem. Greene believes that individuals who can forgive themselves and forgive their feelings toward others harbor fewer feelings of shame. This effect works to improve feelings of competency and self-worth, and increases overall self-esteem.

Green believes these findings are clinically significant. Clinicians working with LGBTQ clients should consider self-forgiveness as a pathway to increase self-esteem. Strategies that enable self-forgiveness, forgiveness of others’ anger and intolerance, and forgiveness of situations that involve prejudice and discrimination, can bolster feelings of self-worth and diminish feelings of shame.

“In addition,” added Greene, “Because shame proneness contributes to low self-esteem in LGBTQ people, we recommend helping clients to develop coping strategies to mitigate the negative impact of shame.” Overall, these results can have a very positive impact on treatment approaches and interventions designed to improve well-being in LBGTQ individuals.

Greene, Darrell C., and Paula J. Britton. (2013). The influence of forgiveness on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning individuals’ shame and self-esteem. Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD 91.2 (2013): 195-205.ProQuest. Web.

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  • Simon

    June 8th, 2013 at 4:53 AM

    Don’t you think that the title of this story only perpetuates the myth that LGBT individuals have done something that needs ot be forgiven?
    What, being themselves is not good enough so they have to forgive themselves for going against the grain of society?
    If this is how they were made, and I truly believe this, for if it wasn’ they would certainly live an easier life in terms of society, then what should they have to forgive themselves for?

  • Leander

    June 8th, 2013 at 11:59 PM

    How can someone not forgive himself?I mean harboring something against another person is understandable.But how can someone do so to his own self?This would stem from a lack of self belief in the first place.If one has enough belief in himself then there will be no I-did-wrong-and-cannot-forgive-myself thoughts!

  • Jonathan

    June 9th, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    Sorry but I think that all of this only feeds into what others already think of people who are gay.
    They think that what they are doing is wrong and that the only way for them to be saved is to denounce who they are and what they are. Why should I ask for forgivemess wha I am doing nothing wrong?

  • terry

    June 9th, 2013 at 9:01 PM

    that isn’t true, people do not think they are doing wrong.they are made to feel that way.has happened to me ever since high school and there are times I ask myself that question.not that I doubt my ways but when everybody around you is saying things it does get to you eventually!

  • Grace

    June 10th, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    I wish everyone peace and love. I want to think that if the gay community as a whole can move past the shame that either some feel or are made to feel than that will make it easier for society as a whole to be more loving and accepting as well. I think that when everyday people see that shame than naturally they are going to feel like this is something to be ashamed of and that they should work to change. Not true always but I think that this is the perception. maybe when that demographic as a whole stands together as one and refuses to accept that shame anymore then others can then start to wrap their own minds around the fact that this is okay, it is natural for some people and that it isn’t for us to judge what is right or wrong.

  • mandy

    June 10th, 2013 at 9:48 PM

    discriminating against lgbt community is a bigger form of bullying if you ask me.and the effects are greater too.losing self esteem is not unheard of in such a situation and everybody who has ever done anything homophobic is responsible.

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